Morgan's rally falls short with missed free throws Hot-shooting Hampton holds off Bears, 70-67

February 11, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Hill Field House wasn't quite enough for Morgan State last night.

Losers of one previous game at home, the Bears made a valiant recovery from a 15-point, second-half deficit, but couldn't convert key free throws at the finish.

The result was a 70-67 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference defeat to Hampton, the league's newest member, which is ineligible for the MEAC and NCAA tournaments.

"I don't have a whole lot to say," said Morgan coach Chris Fuller. "We keep digging the same hole over and over. It's been a long time since they've won here [at the school], and it's going to take a while to build a winning mind-set."

Morgan (6-14, 5-7) trailed the hot-shooting Pirates 58-43 with 12: 37 remaining in the game and was behind 66-58 with five minutes to go.

But a comeback was in progress, thanks to Bears senior forward Chris Watson, who sustained an injury to his Achilles' tendon late in the first half but returned midway through the second period.

"I've had Chris a long time, and he told me he was OK to play. We ran him behind the the bench a few times and sent him in. He gutted it out," said Fuller.

Pirates coach Byron Samuels was equally impressed with Watson's return. "He's as tough a matchup as there is in the conference," said Samuels. "He's a very strong player and he got back in there and they made a heck of a run."

Watson scored nine points during the stretch as Morgan cut its deficit to 66-65 at the 1: 28 mark.

But the Pirates put the game away from the foul line, with sophomore Torrey Farrington hitting three of four and freshman Damany Smith sinking one of two.

That made it 70-67 with nine seconds left before Watson missed an off-balance three-point try to tie before the buzzer.

"We didn't lose the game on the last shot," said Fuller. "We lost it on the foul line."

The Bears missed three of four free throws in the final 1: 28, and Tremaine Byrd and Watson couldn't score from three-point distance.

Hampton (7-15, 5-6) was sizzling from the start, sinking 17 of 24 field-goal attempts in the first half, including six of nine from long range.

The firepower kept coming for 10 1/2 minutes of the second half before the cool down. The Pirates did not have a field goal in the final 8: 57 but finished with 62 percent shooting in the game.

"We've got a decent club," said Samuels. "But we're very young, and that accounts for a lot of inconsistency. This is a tough place to play and was a gut check for us."

Samuels said he considers Morgan a "dangerous team" in the conference picture. "They just didn't make some foul shots and simple plays at the end."

Hampton overcame 27 turnovers with its scorching shooting (37 attempts) and converted 16 of 22 from the line.

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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